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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994)

de John Berendt

Altres autors: Mira la secció altres autors.

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
12,432254353 (3.86)423
"Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case." "It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else." "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story is a sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling southern city is certain to become a modern classic."--Jacket.… (més)
  1. 10
    The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America de Erik Larson (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Offering rich details of Savannah in the 1980s (Midnight in the Garden) and Chicago in the 1890s (Devil in the White City), these well-researched and dramatic recreations of terrible crimes are equally compelling, despite differences in time period and location.… (més)
  2. 00
    Run with the Horsemen de Ferrol Sams (libelulla1)
    libelulla1: Filled with quirky characters in a southern town.
  3. 00
    The Library Book de Susan Orlean (Othemts)
  4. 01
    The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective de Kate Summerscale (libelulla1)
    libelulla1: Both are true crime told in narrative format and the crime in each is never fully explained, only speculated about.
  5. 12
    The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession de Susan Orlean (VictoriaPL)
  6. 01
    Murder in Mississippi de John Safran (Elcee)
  7. 13
    Without Reservation: The Making of America's Most Powerful Indian Tribe and Foxwoods, the World's Largest Casino de Jeff Benedict (jbvm)
    jbvm: This is another 'truth is stranger than fiction' work involving local politics and criminal investigation.
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» Mira també 423 mencions

Anglès (251)  Neerlandès (1)  Finès (1)  Totes les llengües (253)
Es mostren 1-5 de 253 (següent | mostra-les totes)
"Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares." This is the first two sentences of the blurb on the inside cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. So you know the book will be about a murder, but amazingly, the murder is not even mentioned until page 169. I actually went back to read the blurb after about 100 pages to make sure that I wasn't wrong about the murder as a coming attraction.

This is a very enjoyable book if you enjoy reading about a bunch of quirky characters, which is what those first 169 pages were full of. Savannah, Georgia had its share of these characters, and the author, John Berendt, seems to have met them all. What I found a little strange was why so many of them are mentioned since they have nothing whatsoever to do with the murder. Many of them don't seem to have ever even met the accused or the victim. It was fun to read about the man who has a poison strong enough to kill all of Savannah, about Chablis, the black drag queen, and about the ladies who belong to the Married Woman's Card Club and so on. But they are all background characters with no ties to the main event. Readers who love this book, and there are many, may think I am talking smack about their beloved book, but I think all of these characters are just filler. Interesting filler but unnecessary information nonetheless.

Criticism about all of that aside, the murder itself and the subsequent trials, (and yes, there was more than one) were pretty titillating. I have to wonder how I would have voted if I were on one of these juries. I really don't know given what they heard during the trials as opposed to what I knew from the story in this book. So I enjoyed the book even though I thought the quirky characters should have been introduced with much more brevity. In the end, it was a sad, sad story, but I suppose murder generally is.
( )
  boldforbs | Jan 15, 2021 |
Just page after page of pure Southern Gothic decadence. This was every bit as engrossing as it was the first time I read it a number of years ago. ( )
1 vota wandaly | Jan 9, 2021 |
Truth is stranger than fiction or in this case near truth is as strange as near fiction. The story of Jim Williams several trials (1981-89) for the murder of Danny Hansford in Savannah Georgia (USA) has been manipulated by Berendt into a nonfiction novel, but the real star of this novel is the city of Savannah. The novel apparently remains the longest standing New York Times bestseller (216 weeks on the list) and two years after its publication in 1994 Savannah enjoyed a 46% increase in tourism. The city is certainly made to sound attractive, but is not a place that I would have wanted to visit in case I had met any of the characters that appear in the novel: an unlovely bunch of braggarts, social climbers and miscreants in anyones language.

The novel is written in the first person by Berendt as an active observer taking notes and meeting with the characters as the events unfold and in some ways proves to be a social document of the life of the city as seen in the upper echelons. Part one of the book describes the city and some of the characters that Berendt meets while carrying out his research. He starts with a meeting of the wealthy socialite Jim Williams at his house and the young man Danny Hansford who will be shot by Williams later (much later) in the book. The author then takes in the high spots of Savannah telling us a little about himself and his meeting with other characters; many who will not feature at all in the murder case or trial, but will still be part of Berendt's social group. Part two of the book roughly halfway through gets the story moving of the murder and trial. Part one therefore serves to be a long introduction and a whose who of the city and a whose who of those involved in the drama.

It takes some time therefore for the story of the murder and the trial to get started and that would have been fine if the first part of the book had not been written in a style that feels like reportage. Although Berendt inserts himself into the book he is a mere cypher and gives only a superficial view of the characters he meets. He is just a teller of stories and some of these are second hand. It is really only the transgender person of colour; Chablis who is so extrovert that she cannot help talking about herself that reveal any inner thoughts and she has no part to play in the murder and trail. Of course characters talk about other characters, but they are unreliable witnesses.

Forget the story of the trials that plod on through the second half of the book, because Berendt does not add much to the known facts and instead concentrate on the indictment of the social elite of Savannah. Old money. new money, racist, sexist its all here if you can see the wood for the trees. I am not sure Berendt can, but then he has a story to report. The book did not do much for me and so three stars. ( )
2 vota baswood | Dec 21, 2020 |
So much better than the movie, which bored me to tears. The book wasn't quite but I expected but was very enjoyable. Savannah is such a beautiful city and after a weekend trip there, I couldn't wait to learn more about it and read this with the images still fresh in my mind. The book is actually a non-fiction account of Berendt's stay in Savannah and all of the characters he meets. He weaves the story of Jim Williams' murder trials throughout the book, but it doesn't take over like in the movie. Well-written, humorous at times, and a great snapshot of Savannah life. ( )
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
Reading this book was a long time coming. I finally picked it up because I was going to Savannah and, well, yes, of course, read "The Book."
So I did.

I enjoyed the first half, but felt like the author's journalist background was coming out more than a cohesive story. It was more like a series of mini-biographies on various interesting people in Savannah. Like those long articles where a magazine writer meets with someone of interest over an extended period of time and talks about their interactions (there was a fascinating one with Fiona Appel in the past couple years...). I.e., it was very interesting and definitely put you in the mood of Savannah, but it wasn't exactly a story. There didn't appear to be a fluid tale coming out. It was more like "oh this person! Oh and that thing! oo, and then there was this one time... And oh yeah, she was interesting too!" And it was. Interesting. But not, as I say, a story. So the first half I'd give about 3 1/2 stars.

Except for the Jim Williams stuff which is the beginning, occasionally throughout, and most of the latter half of the book. And I'd give all that 5 stars. Berendt truly brings to life Jim Williams and his house (Mercer House), his experiences, his trade, his peoples, his parties, his personalities... I loved reading all of that. And Berendt did a fantastic job bringing to life the trialS related to Jim Williams.... without being boring or repetitive or, frankly, overly legalistic. It was just interesting and endearing and wonderful.

And what's it about? It's about Savannah. It's about the people in Savannah and the nature of Savannah and what makes Savannah, Savannah. This is apparently why the people in Savannah simply refer to this as "The Book." Because it did its job well. And it's also about a murder trial. And about big personalities. And about a journalist's discovery of a city, its people, and even himself.

And I recommend it. Just to everyone. It's a pleasure reading and a good one to have read.
FOUR AND A HALF stars.

Note: This book is true... mostly. As Berendt explains, not only have many of the names been changed, but the timeframe has also been changed, and perhaps small other details, to provide a story that's truer in "feel" than perhaps in explicit detail. ( )
  avanders | Nov 23, 2020 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 253 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Elegant and wicked.... Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil might be the first true-crime book that makes the reader want to book a bed and breakfast for an extended weekend at the scene of the crime.
afegit per GYKM | editaThe New York Times Book Review
 

» Afegeix-hi altres autors (8 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Berendt, Johnautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Carson, Carol DevineDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Heald, AnthonyNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Woodman, JeffNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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He was tall, about fifty, with darkly handsome, almost sinister features: a neatly trimmed mustache, hair turning silver at the temples, and eyes so black they were like the tinted windows of a sleek limousine—he could see out, but you couldn't see in.
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These, then, were the images in my mental gazetteer of Savannah: rum-drinking pirates, strong-willed women, courtly manners, eccentric behaviour, gentle words, and lovely music. That and the beauty of the name itself: Savannah.
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This is the book, not the film.
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"Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case." "It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else." "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story is a sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling southern city is certain to become a modern classic."--Jacket.

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